When I broach the idea of the Israeli Palestinian Confederation, I also get another reaction: “There is no partner for peace.”
A partnership is one of the most basic and unsophisticated forms of relationship. Partners too often fight and become suspicious of each other and are often unable to grow and prosper because they waste their emotional energy undermining each other.
The legal profession has given us more sophisticated forms of relations because it realizes that sole proprietorships and partnerships are very limited in their scope. No single person and very few partnerships are able to manage huge financial endeavors. We developed the concept of corporation precisely because someone realized that partners cannot raise funds, do research and produce products at a high level all at the same time. The world’s stock exchanges have very few, if any, partnerships. I am not suggesting that the Palestinians and Israelis should turn their countries into a corporation. I am only suggesting that the vision of peace should be expanded.
A war or hostility is our failure to solve an issue by being tolerant, creative and smart. A war is usually the least desirable and least successful means of reaching results. When our leaders choose to go to war and we happily support them, we are admitting our failure to innovate.
The normal and truthful question to ask our leaders when we go to war is, “Mr. or Ms. Leader, please explain to us what you did, or failed to do, that now requires us to use the least desirable and least productive method to solve the problem?”
If the leaders are honest, their answer should be the following: “We have failed to pay attention to the issue at hand. We have failed to understand how the other side perceived the issue. We have failed to see the issue from their point of view. We have ignored the issue for a long time. We were more concerned about our own issues. We were secretly hoping that the problem would go away. We were hoping that the problem would arise later, when we are not in power. We were blinded by nationalism. We lack imagination.”
Of course, none of that will ever happen. Our leaders would not answer in that fashion. But the reality is that this is how many wars break out.
Expanding our vision of peace will remove the personal nastiness, pettiness and animosity. Peace should be the rule. Hostility should be the exception. Hostility is our failure to communicate with each other, to understand the needs of our fellow human beings and to elevate ourselves beyond our immediate concerns. It is our responsibility now, as citizens of the world, to take advantage of the electronic media to connect with each other to forge peace, not only between the Israelis and Palestinians, but also in other parts of the world and perhaps the whole world.
The concept that conflict can be resolved only by governments is a limitation on our vision of peace. The Israeli and Palestinian governments have been at each other’s throats for years. They mostly generate their power from a nationalistic base that desires full victory against their enemy. Both governments regularly boast of their success and point out how unreasonable the other government is, but they seldom critically and honestly analyze their own position for peace. Both governments are weak and regularly grasp at straws to survive. Both the Israeli and Palestinian governments treat each other as players in a chess game trying to outsmart the other. They both fail miserably in delivering peace to their people. They both take their people for granted and do not even discuss their vision of peace with them. To think that those governments are the exclusive players who can deliver peace is simply preposterous.
No one person or entity or government can make peace alone. Even if we give governments the benefit of the doubt, they should not be the exclusive players who will make peace. Peace should be a process undertaken by the peoples of both sides. People should be leading the way to peace and should force their own governments to follow. The more people and organizations that participate in the process of creating and maintaining peace, the stronger peace becomes. It should be like a lake with many streams running into it. The more streams that enter the lake, the less likely it is to dry out. Governments could reach a peace agreement, but true peace does not require an agreement. It is a product of substantial cooperation between peoples.
In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the new vision of peace requires us to make personal alliances and connections between persons who belong to opposite sides. Just because an Israeli person lives in Tel Aviv and a Palestinian person lives in Gaza, that alone should not make them enemies. The new vision of peace allows both to make interpersonal connections despite their governments’ animosity toward each other. The citizens of opposing governments do not necessarily have opposing interests. In fact, they may have similar views and certainly some common interests. Citizens have the responsibility to push their governments to act in their mutual interests, but they can communicate with each other, conduct business and share cultural experiences, even meet with each other in person despite their governments.
In the past, most political constituencies automatically took their government’s positions. However, it is now much easier to find people who are willing to put aside their nationalistic feeling and forge peace. They understand that as individuals they must connect with each other, Palestinians with Israelis and Israelis with Palestinians, because isolation from each other perpetuates misunderstanding, prejudice and hatred. They understand that they must connect with each other to keep their own governments in check. They understand that they must connect with each other to keep the dialogue going and to find a common formula for peace.
There are many bereaved parents and families in Palestine and Israel who do not necessarily follow their government’s nationalistic point of view. Their attitude is much more global. Because their loved one paid the ultimate price, and because they are living with that calamity, they see the conflict much more realistically. The human tragedy they suffered transcends any nationalistic feeling. Many of them wish to connect with one another regardless of national identity.
There are many Palestinians and Israelis who feel an emotional, cultural or economic connection with each other, even across the borders. Those citizens are the infrastructure and lubricants of peace between their two peoples. They have a new vision of peace that can directly override their own opposing governments.
At one time I interviewed Daniel Pipes, an American conservative thinker. I presented Mr. Pipes with the idea of achieving peace through the Israeli Palestinian Confederation. Mr. Pipes felt that the idea of cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians contradicts history and the matter in which peace is forged. He believes that in order to have peace, either the Israelis or the Palestinians would have to completely win the war over the other, with one remaining as the dominant force.
This is a very limited vision of peace. It does not take into account the new communication options available to us for personal connection, including the Internet and electronic devices. We now have much better tools that give us more options than the one that served military generals, empires and tyrants up to the 21st century.
Would it make sense to limit our health strategies to surgeries and medicine alone? Would it not make sense to also eat right and exercise? There are many people who find natural ways to prevent illnesses and remain healthy. Using this metaphor, the Israeli Palestinian Confederation is the alternative medicine. It is the eat-right-and-exercise aspect of the relationship. It does not proclaim to be the exclusive remedy. Indeed, all remedies and visions should be attempted simultaneously.
There is no one formula to reach peace. Peace is a process that relies on multiple layers of visions and aspirations. It is a process of never-ending and rigorous connections between people on multiple levels. It is a state of mind that needs to be constantly addressed, fed and nurtured.